Book Jacket


rank 1046
word count 23107
date submitted 29.01.2010
date updated 12.03.2014
genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical Fictio...
classification: universal

Our Fathers

Marissa Priest

After a decade of not knowing the truth behind their detective fathers' deaths, Scarlet Black and Colby Redd unlock the dusty mysteries of their past.


In 1880s Bath, England, Scarlet Black and Colby Redd depart from their quiet and very separate lives to finally uncover why their detective fathers visited the lumberyard where they died in a horrific fire ten years ago. Despite conflicted motivations, they each desire to sort out the root of this mystery and finally solve it.

In long afternoons crowded around dusty boxes, the two dig up their own convoluted histories as well as new mysteries. Tattered books and crumpled papers tell them about illegitimate children, arson, forgery, and riots. Using their genetic predispositions to solving crime, Scarlet and Colby force themselves into a world all others feared they would join. Under the disapproving eyes of Scarlet's mother and her socialite friends, the two risk social standing and reputation all for a once seemingly simple truth.

The search for one answer leads to a room filled with questions.

Copyright 2009

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Chapter One

    Miss Scarlet Black was lost. It was her own fault, and each echoing step served as a reminder of her folly. She traversed through the twisted network of narrow streets with only an address and a man's name written in smudged ink on a wrinkled scrap of paper. The unfamiliar avenues crowded with the public squalor of the city only guaranteed disorientation for the young lady.

    “Baker Street? No. Decker Avenue? No, that’s not it either,” she questioned her directions while peering at the monotonous street signs. With an exasperated sigh, Scarlet attempted to remove herself from the jostling river of pedestrians to reexamine the folded slip of paper. Unfortunately, they neglected to pass her by in peace. Elbows, hips, and baskets knocked against her without a word of apology until she was flat against the window of a shop. She clutched the paper with both hands to prevent it from slipping out of her fingers and abandoning her in the faceless crowd. While cautiously unfurling the paper, Scarlet pinched the corner with quivering fingers. The opposite end fluttered in the wind; the sight sent her heart into a fit of spasms. Swatting away the drooping elongated feathers from her hat, she endeavored to read her handwriting, yet the smeared numbers and words still could not guide Scarlet in the right direction. She remained astray from her path. More than anything else, she needed a guide through the gray city of Bath.

    Earlier, she attempted hailing a carriage outside her home, but no one would stop for the odd sight of a formally dressed woman walking on her own. She spent nearly half her walk failing to attract the attention of a respectable cabbie. However, her efforts and undertaking of the walk garnered the disdainful and detached interest of passer-bys in both halves of the city. Her eyes drifted over the taut faces passing in the jostle of traffic. They were engrossed with their own tasks, which was precisely what Scarlet desired. For her to achieve that, she needed one of them to surrender a few minutes of their own time for a stranger. However, out of all the people, only a pack of leering young men looked her way. Clenching her fists, Scarlet turned her face away when her gaze crossed one of their perverse stares. They skulked after her, shuffling several steps behind Scarlet as she progressed down the street to search for someone else to question. Her thumb circled the curling edge of the page, loosely holding it as she studied the passing faces for one that may offer assistance.

Heedless in her search, Scarlet neglected to tighten the vice of her fingers on the paper. A stray wind whisked it away, and her heart stilled at the sight of the flight. One hand clutched her chest with the intent of squeezing her heart into life, while the other waved in the air. She shouted for aid, but the few who lifted their eyes to her plight said nothing. Scarlet fought past them to purse the paper, and blindly ignored the complaints and disgruntled looks from those she pushed aside. Her feet stumbled over the uneven pavement, yet she did not lower her head to secure steadier footsteps. With each change of direction in the wind, her heart seized and turned. The page dipped, but remained too far ahead of her. Both her arms flailed in the air with her desperation. Another shout flickered past the ears of the pedestrians, as well as the gasp when a hand reached up and snatched the paper. She froze, unsure of how to proceed. Her possible savior did not allow her any time to make a decision. As he pushed his way towards her, she recognized him as one of the men that had previously trailed after her. Licking her lips, she whipped her head to the side and spotted his compatriots.

    “Believe this is yours, miss,” he spoke crisply, the words rolling out of his mouth. Scarlet stuttered her thanks as she wrung her hands together. Her first clue rested in the man’s bare hand, crinkling as he held it out. “Anything else a lovely lass like yourself might need?” he inquired, slightly withdrawing his hand when she reached for it.

    “No, nothing. Thank you very much,” Scarlet shrilly uttered. She swatted at his taunting hand as an effort to retrieve the copy of the address. The rash swipe forced her pulse to race; her blood quickened further once the man withdrew the hand with her prize and took her by the wrist with his empty hand. His fingers loosely wrapped around her, yet the thought of struggling away terrified Scarlet. She watched with wide eyes as the man lifted the paper and pretended to read it. The foolhardy deception irked Scarlet once she noticed how his eyes never drifted from her face and then her body. After the disgust filtered away from the forefront of her mind, it occurred to her that she still possessed use of her second hand. It snapped up and wrenched the page out of his grip. The man laughed at her, rocking on his heels. Scarlet refused to share in any of the mirth when she spotted a portion of her page left behind in the man’s hand. He presumed to not care as he lowered his hand and the bit flittered into the air once more. 

    “You look lost, miss. Let me and me mates help you out,” he insisted with a tilt of his head. Scarlet’s voice faltered as she presented an excuse, unable to rationally form one as she unrolled the paper. The address remained intact, but her prospective host’s name lacked the latter half of his surname. Compressing the paper in her palm, Scarlet prayed a short thanks that a lifetime of memorization rendered that line on the page unnecessary.

    “Thank you again for your offer, but I have no need of it,” the lie was heavy on her tongue. Greed in the eyes of the man before her propelled her feet to the side. As he tipped his hat to her in parting, Scarlet hastened her gait. She could not withstand the paranoid inclination to twist her head and watch as the man rejoined his compatriots. The second of viewing them consult each other sated it, and Scarlet swiftly turned her head to the streets before her.

    Flustered by the encounter, she found herself even more unsure of her ability to navigate. Yet Scarlet refused to exhibit any signs of her personal doubts. She wove through the people around her, craning her neck to briefly deduce the possibility of stopping one to provide her with clarification. Distempered expressions met her eyes and darkened her hopes. Gritting her teeth, Scarlet told herself that she needed to speak with some stranger before reaching the end of the street. 

    “Excuse me, but do you know where I could find one hundred and seven Chester Street?” Scarlet turned to a passing hunchbacked street vendor. After refusing to buy any of the suspicious smelling food from his crooked cart, she attempted to show him the bit of paper in her gloved hand. He coughed at her in response, spittle flying out of his mouth. The question remained in her mouth momentarily, caged by disgust. One foot slid backwards, but she was held in place by her need. “Can you please point me in the direction of Chester Street?” she asked as he wiped his mouth on his ripped knit gloves. She felt uncomfortable under his beady eyes, but did not budge. Only after looking over her neatly dressed form and lingering on her small purse did he speak.

    “Ain’t any Chester ‘round ‘ere. If ya lookin’ for Checker Street, that’s one mo’ over,” he answered in a gruff voice, cracking over the words. With Scarlet not providing him any business, he hurried away to pursue those with money to spare.

    “Thank you,” Scarlet called out before he vanished behind the surge of moving people. When her eyes returned to the paper, she squinted. Indeed, the address very well could be Checker Street, instead of Chester. She could barely recall writing it down. At the time, her mind was abundant with more distracting thoughts. The memory danced around in her head, taunting her. Looking up at the hazy sky, she pondered on what to do in her undertaking. In all likelihood, the vender knew this area much better, so Scarlet decided to trust his directions. There were no other imaginable options left, aside from turning around and heading home. That, however, was impossible. The image of her disapproving mother resounded in the forefront of her mind, and it sealed her decision. Crumpling up the paper and shoving it in her coat pocket, she resumed her trek towards the answers at one hundred and seven Checker Street.

She strode with as much purpose as she could muster, moving swiftly despite the bulk of her light blue dress. Her head remained high, eyes straight forward. Neither wavered, even though she longed to behold the tightly crammed buildings around her. Not even the stench of working men or the rampant games of children deterred her course. Strong winter winds forcefully pushed her as they whipped around the street corners. They pressed against her black hat, and she was thankful for the pins securing it against her tightly curled hair. Bitter blasts sought to work through her clothing to tire her limbs with the cold, but Scarlet resisted the stinging temptations to return to a warm house. As she moved, her bustle swished back and forth and her black boots clacked sharply on the cold hard street. While Scarlet felt propelled by the sounds of her venture, they barely stood out against the resounding din of the street. Everything around her was brisk and sharp, from the calls of old friends meeting each other to the angry shouts of intersecting cabbies. Scarlet was not accustomed to such ruckus, but still rapidly moved herself through it. Stepping around shallow puddles from last night’s storm, she did not let her momentum falter.

After gazing up at the row of lofty brick houses, she turned right. A dull street sign above her head confirmed that she traveled down the correct route. Her gait increased with the prospect of uncovering the beginning of a long sought truth. The number one hundred and seven glinted at her from across the street. In the corner of her eye, she noticed her pursuers holding back to talk amongst themselves. While she could not guess at their words, their frantic waving hands and shaking heads unnerved her. After one man slapped his companion’s arm, they fled down another street. Distracted by a brief moment of hesitation, Scarlet sought to peer after her pursuers. Their odd presence distracted her, yet it did not last once they departed from her vision. Inhaling the pungent air, Scarlet darted towards her destination. Avoiding the oncoming traffic of rattling carriages and slime of the streets involved a great deal of maneuvering. With her right hand, she held up as much of the train as was socially acceptable and held down her black hat with the other. Once she arrived on the other side of the street, she stopped to inspect the damage. Only a few drops of polluted rainwater stirred from stagnant puddles and hit Scarlet’s blue dress. The tiny dark marks stood out against the rich pink trim of her dress, but Scarlet knew they could be removed by her maid upon her return. She dismissed the worry and smoothed out the fabric around her waist. All her thoughts now centered on what lay behind the door in front of her. After nearly a year of searching for its resident, she had arrived. Her heart beat against her ribcage, eager for her great discovery to unleash its benefits.

    Retrieving the slip of paper for the last time, Scarlet shifted her eyes between the crumpled half sheet clenched in her gloved hand and the brass numbered plate to assure herself they matched. She had indeed found the place. Sucking in her breath, Scarlet knocked on the door four times. Then, taking a step back, she waited. To her extreme displeasure, nothing happened. Licking her lips, she knocked again, a tad stronger. The silence inside the house continued. Narrowing her eyes, Scarlet began banging vigorously. Finally, she heard a crash, a series of low thumps, and then the clicking of the door latch.

    “What do you want?” a raggedy man asked as he peered around the partially opened door. Scarlet was silent with distress as she took in his disheveled appearance. The moment the door opened, her nose was flooded with an array of foul odors, dominated by the stink of sweat and alcohol. That alone created a desire to leave at once, yet it was the first of many flaws to flood her vision. The man’s dirty blond hair was a tangled mess, with some locks sticking straight up and others matted against his head. Loose braces hung down from his waistband. His sunken eyes were bloodshot with dark shadows underneath them. From that and the wrinkles covering his trousers and half-buttoned shirt, Scarlet assumed she woke her host from his afternoon nap. The stern frown confirmed it. “You’re not here for Patrick, are you? No, you’re not his type. He likes to dab it up with…” his words transformed into a yawn. When he finished, the man looked her over with a quizzical twitch of his eyebrows. “Have we met?” he slurred, craning his neck forward. 

    “You see, it’s rather complicated. I’m-” Scarlet began her introduction, but was interrupted by the man stumbling forward with a shocked expression.

    “Are you from the Hog’s Head? Did I…did we?” he asked her with wide eyes. The assumption was obvious. Taken aback, Scarlet had half a mind to slap him and leave at once.

    “Heavens no! I would never-”

    “Thank the lord. Thought you were another girl coming to tell me you were pregnant,” he laughed hoarsely, but his face showed passing relief. Still, Scarlet was stunned and could find no response. She could not comprehend how she possibly could have heard him say “another”. Seeming to ignore the continued silence on her part, the man stepped aside. “Come in,” he spoke slowly, eyeing Scarlet more intently. Giving him a short nod, she stepped inside. Following behind her, the man quickly patted down his mangy hair in order to appear presentable, only for her sake. It did not help alter the first impression in the slightest in her eyes. His clothes were still half undone, and he didn’t appear to notice. She stopped in the front hall, waiting for him to introduce himself and offer to take her velvet coat. The latter would have been difficult as Scarlet saw there was no place to hang it. Those of the co-inhabitants were allowed to fall in a pile on the floor. Her shoe grazed the sleeve of one jacket, and she speedily backed away. It was uncomfortable, but Scarlet kept her coat on. Instead of addressing her, her host motioned with his other hand to show Scarlet into the main room. She timidly walked forward, her head filling with implausible fears that the ramshackled interior would collapse from the echo of her footsteps.

    “I assume you are Mister Red?” Scarlet asked as she looked for a place to sit. The two chairs were littered with magazines of crudely drawn cartoons and dirty clothes, and the low couch was covered in tattered blankets. She instead decided to stand perfectly still and not approach the mess.

    “With two ‘d’s, but it’s pronounced the same. Colby Redd,” he responded, tossing the blankets behind the couch after catching Scarlet’s barely successful attempts to not gawk. Smiling politely, she tried not to further stare at the utter disarray around her. Finding it much harder than expected, she trained her eyes on Mr. Redd’s square face. He kept running his tongue over his cracked lips, which were sunken deeply in his pallid face. It was hard to watch him for long without feeling peculiarly nauseated, and so she focused on the couch. When she sat on the edge, thousands of flecks of dust flew out of the stiff cushions like a pack of released hounds. Wincing, Scarlet held back an oncoming sneeze by pressing the back of her hand against her nose.

    “My…um…My name is Scarlet Black and…uh,” as Scarlet spoke, she struggled to fight against the tingling in her nose. Closing her eyes so she could finally release the sneeze, she missed the remotely cheerful expression on Mr. Redd’s face vanish. 

    “Black, ey?” he grunted, clenching his eyes shut. He lingered before the couch, unsure whether to sit or stand. Finally, Mr. Redd decided to pace in front of the couch. Watching him move, Scarlet wondered if she should continue with her prepared speech. The words in her head derived from an amalgamation of different letters she wrote and never sent over the course of the past few months. He, however, already guessed the intention behind her abrupt visit. “You’re here about our fathers, come to bother me about the fire. I should have known you’d show up sooner or later,” he sighed, and then toppled onto the couch. His hunched back threatened to collapse, and remained weakly supported by his arms holding up his head. As more dust flew into the air, Scarlet quickly covered her mouth.

    “I’ve been meaning to come see you for some time, but I’ve only just been able to track you down,” she spoke gradually after lowering her hand. Mr. Redd’s stern expression remained, even when Scarlet gave him her best smile. The two lines of white teeth made him angrier.

    “Get to the point,” he snapped at her. Scarlet trembled with fear from the violence in his voice. If she had been anywhere else, she would have hidden behind a cup of tea until both parties were calm. Here, she doubted if her host even had the proper supplies to make tea. So instead, Scarlet took a deep breath and clasped her hands together. This was the exact moment she had dreamt about for over a year.

    “I’m sure you’ve received your fair share of people asking about our fathers and their enterprises. All sorts of people visited my family throughout the years. I have never considered listening to these people for even a second, that is…until recently,” Scarlet’s words passed over a tongue which felt as if it was composited of paste. The callous stare of Mr. Redd nearly demolished her wits; however, Scarlet’s nerves solidified after staring down at her folded hands. “One man sought out my mother and I to ask if he could write a series of short stories based on our fathers and their ‘adventures’. He spoke about discovering the truth behind their attempt at a detective agency, and telling the public everything,” she treaded carefully through her subsequent words in order to further pacify Mr. Redd. When she stopped, he leaned forward with a hard glare in his green eyes. While Scarlet idolized her father’s private detective career, Mr. Redd clearly had a great issue with it. His less than positive reactions befuddled the woman captivated by a memory. The late Misters Black and Redd were sought after by those with unfortunate trials. They took jobs the police would not, and solved them faster with their unorthodox methods. Their lives were dedicated to fixing everyone’s troubles, no matter the cost.

    “And what about this offer brought you here? Finally decide to turn our fathers’ memory into a profit?” Mr. Redd sneered at her. Seeing her remaining collected under his attack, he threw his head back. With a groan and wave of his hand, he told her to continue.

    “I will have you know that I refused to grant my permission. I only thought about his desire for an investigation into their lives and work. So I explored my house after he left. That’s when I found this,” Scarlet said as she lifted up her left hand. Reaching under the edge of her sleeve, she tugged at her bracelet. Lifting an eyebrow, Mr. Redd leaned in closer so he could see the black cord tied around her wrist. A key with gold numbers embossed across the top hung down and swayed with her movements. The dim light in the room glinted of the newly cleaned metal.  

    “Where did you find that?” Mr. Redd asked as she united the cord. The glare in his eyes had softened just a bit, but the anger was not gone. Seizing the opportunity, Scarlet moved in closer by sliding. She felt the folds of her dress crumble under her leg from the movement, but she neglected to tend to it.

    “My father’s key to the flat where they worked. I found them the other day, hidden in the back of a bookcase. There was a concealed panel on the top shelf, just out of the reach of my mother. He had hiding places all over the house. I’ve been trying to locate all of them over the years, but he was extremely clever,” she answered with an innocent smile. After turning the key over in her hands, she handed it to Mr. Redd. As he held it with care, a light calm passed over his face. With extreme caution, Scarlet edged closer. She felt too near to Mr. Redd, but needed to make sure her mission was a success. “I came here to ask you to come with me,” she dropped her voice. 

    “Are you touched? Why? Why on earth would you want to go in there? What are you thinking?” Mr. Redd asked her in a cold frenzy. His eyes snapped away from the key as he withdrew. The previous ferocity seeped back into his form. Unlike before, Scarlet did not worry about watching her tongue in order to remain proper.

    “I want to find out why they died. What exactly happened in the fire,” she told him with a commanding voice. Instantly, Mr. Redd returned the key to her and stood up silently. No longer meek, Scarlet stood up as well. “It’s been a decade, and we know next to nothing about their deaths. Our fathers went to the lumberyard investigating a murder. While there, the place burnt to the ground. They were said to have been trapped inside and burnt alive. All official investigations stopped days later. Everyone thought it was a dead end, and that the fire was an accident,” she said, tapping her palm with each point made. She did not need to say that she knew the police were wrong; the statement was plastered across her face.

    “They stopped looking because there was nothing to look at. Everything burnt. It was a pile of ash by the end of the day. In any case, it’s all long gone. That place is a factory now,” Mr. Redd reminded her bitterly, but Scarlet shook her head. He opened his mouth to further dissuade her, but decided against it. She was fixed in her path, and it showed throughout her stance. While it was barely visible under the many layers of her dress, Scarlet spread her legs and locked her knees. Her hands were planted on her hips, drumming her pointer finger. Even though her lips were dry from the cold weather, she bit down on her lower lip. The fiery light flaring in her eyes challenged him to stop her.

    “I am going there first thing tomorrow morning. You may join me if you wish,” she told him, uncrossing her arms and dropping them at her side. Without giving Mr. Redd a chance to retort, Scarlet marched out of his home. She walked back through the cold streets, hugging herself for warmth. It was slightly darker than when she left; more snow laden clouds gathered around the horizon and their feathered edges filtered the sunlight. Scarlet ignored their threat of snow as she retraced her previous route. Recalling each street and the various landmarks of shops and busy homes, she guided her feet with more ease than earlier. Each step drove her to increase her pace, as she longed to arrive in the warmth of her own home. Familiar streets tempted her to jog. Gritting her chattering jaw, Scarlet controlled her urge. She steadied her gait to smaller steps as neighbors glanced at her with suspicion. Smiling at them with polite courtesy, she crept up the stairs to her home. With utmost care, she partially opened up the front door and slipped inside. The train of her dress snagged on the bottom as she attempted to fit through the opening with stealth. Biting on her tongue, she pulled herself free with both hands. After closing the door, Scarlet heard heavy breathing behind her. “Hello Mother,” she grimaced, forcing herself to turn around.

“Where have you been?”
    “I told you I would be out,” Scarlet replied lightly as she leaned against the door. Standing a few feet in front of her was a fuming Mrs. Black. After bowing her head to her mother, Scarlet shrugged off her hat and coat. The family’s wrinkled faced butler was waiting behind Mrs. Black to take them from her.   

“I cannot believe you actually went to see that man,” Mrs. Black said as she followed her daughter. Scarlet ignored her mother’s rant on the impropriety of traversing the city without a chaperone. She heard a variation of the speech spouted at her both the previous night and that morning. Instead of listening obediently as she should have, she peered around and under the furniture. Mrs. Black watched with a scowl and then turned her back. Scarlet trailed after her mother out of the room, but was not yet ready to listen. Her mother noticed and took a hold of her arm. 

    “Pattie! Pattie, come here,” Mrs. Black yelled at the top of her lungs. In moments, a young woman dressed in a tidy black uniform hurried out of the dining room. After dusting her hand on her apron, she curtsied to her employers. “Please take Scarlet--” she said, keeping an eye on Scarlet as she released her daughter’s arm. As Pattie nodded to her instructions, Scarlet bounded back into the drawing room. 

    “Johnny!” she squealed while clapping her hands together. Looking up at her from underneath a chair was an overweight orange tabby. It watched as she stepped closer and held out her hand. With a deep purr, the cat rubbed up against her hand, and then her legs. “I knew you were hiding from me. Why my darling?” Scarlet cooed, scooping the cat up in her arms. “Pattie, could you draw a hot bath?” she then asked, rocking the cat back and forth.

    “A bath? But…” Mrs. Black declared, but stopped and shook her head. Scarlet was already heading up the stairs, and would not be stopped. Muttering to herself, Mrs. Black left her daughter alone.

    “Shall I fetch you when the water’s ready?” Pattie asked as she followed Scarlet on the stairs. Nodding, Scarlet silently walked to her bedroom. Once inside, Johnny squirmed his way out of her arms. Purring continuously, the cat ran to the bed, but still watched Scarlet.

    “Has Pattie been giving you extra snacks? You’re getting big,” she cooed at him. Hearing about his favorite treats, Johnny scurried over to Scarlet. She overlooked the cat rubbing against her leg to take off her earrings. Only after Johnny began pawing at her dress did she pick him up with one arm. Even then, he continued to paw at her. “Oh, what do you want?” she asked, kissing him on the head. Scarlet then set him down on the dresser. As she lay out the key on top of her jewelry box, Scarlet rubbed Johnny’s back. “You are far too spoiled,” she said to the cat. Closing his eyes, he purred in agreement. There was a light knock on the door, which startled the cat. He meowed as it opened, but Scarlet hushed him. 

“Everything’s ready miss,” Pattie said as she stepped into the room. She eyed Scarlet as she sat down on the bed and forcefully petted her car. Johnny felt unnerved by the increased pressure on his back, and jumped out of her arms.

“Quick, close the door. I do not want him running around the house with Mother upset. Heaven knows what she’ll do to him,” Scarlet waved for Pattie to move. She then rose from the bed and nudged the cat away from the door with one foot. Once Pattie closed it, Johnny zipped back under the bed. Scarlet ignored her cat as she walked over to the vanity. Once seated, she began pulling out all the pins that held her hair up. Without them, the shining locks fell past her shoulders. After shaking out her hair, Scarlet pulled up the skirt of the dress. As Pattie watched, she swiftly unlaced the walking boots. Once she finished, she pulled them off and tossed the boots to the side.

“How was your outing?” Pattie asked, picking up Scarlet’s boots and carrying them to the wardrobe. Blinking, Scarlet looked at the maid through the mirror. Instead of answering, she rose to her feet. Pattie understood her silence and stood behind her. Both women held their tongues as Scarlet outstretched her arms. With practiced skill, Pattie unlaced Scarlet’s tight walking dress. She then stepped aside to let Scarlet pull the dress off herself. After tossing it on the bed, Scarlet returned to standing still.

“Everything went well,” she said, looking over her shoulder as Pattie loosened the padding attached to her waist. Moving around her mistress carefully, Pattie nodded as she moved onto loosening the petticoat. As they did every day and night, she stepped aside so Scarlet could take it off herself.

“I am glad to hear it,” Pattie answered, taking the soft cloth out of Scarlet’s hands. Folding it gently, Pattie laid it atop the large dresser.

When she returned to her side, Scarlet took a deep breath in preparation for the next step. Pattie began unlacing the corset, so once it was loose enough Scarlet could unclasp it in the front. With each loosened string, she exhaled. Her mother demanded the tightest of corsets to maintain Scarlet’s already trained figure. Without the pressure on her abdomen, she could breathe freely and let her posture slack.

“When would you like me to fetch you?” Pattie asked once the corset was off. Keeping her chemise on, Scarlet shivered upon feeling the air on her skin.

“Whenever my mother demands, I suppose. We have to keep her happy,” Scarlet sighed, rubbing her arms. Her thoughts still on her mother, she knelt down to look for her cat. Still under the bed, Johnny prowled back and forth. Scarlet clicked her tongue, beckoning him to come out. The cat slowly obeyed and allowed her to lift him. Pattie opened the door for Scarlet, but did not follow. She had other work to do, first of which was tidying her mistress’ room. Cooing to keep the cat calm, Scarlet hurried down the hall. She used her back to push open the bathroom door, and then let Johnny jump from her arms once it closed. The room was much warmer than the rest of the house, and Scarlet enjoyed the humidity on her skin. Steam rose from the full tub, dancing over the surface. Grinning, Scarlet waved her hand through the thin wisps. They vanished after her touch, but more filtered up to take their place.

“Be careful,” Scarlet said after Johnny jumped onto the sink. For now he paced around the shallow bowl. She decided to let the cat be and carry on with her bath. After slipping out of her chemise, Scarlet spread it over the folded panel separating the tub from the rest of the bathroom. Humming a tune that been in her head all day, she pulled the panel to its full length. The humming stopped when Scarlet slipped her first foot into the water. It was scalding, just the way Scarlet liked it. Still, the heat forced a tiny yelp from her lips. Johnny’s ears perked from hearing her distress, and his head swiveled to see her submerge into the water. With his tail raised, Johnny approached the edge of the sink.

Once Scarlet was settled into the tub, she smiled at her cat. She held out one hand to let him know she was okay. Johnny appeared unsure, and then leapt off the sink. With the agility only cats possess, he landed on the rim of the tub. “Silly thing,” she giggled and flicked droplets of water at his nose. He hissed loudly, and then jumped to the floor to prowl around the tub.

Scarlet’s mind was unraveling in relaxation. Nestled up to her chin in water, Scarlet could finally pull away from every worry. Her mother was not pestering her, Mr. Redd was not confronting her, and the mystery of her father’s death was not hovering above her head. She could be alone with the thoughts she wanted. Hearing only the hollow bubbling of the water, Scarlet cleared her mind. When she emerged from the watery cocoon, Scarlet was ready to set her mind to task. Until Johnny popped his head up. 

“I wonder why Daddy did not like you,” Scarlet said, bringing her face closer to Johnny’s. He cocked his head, and then licked her nose. She raised Johnny since he was the tinniest of kittens. Her father had brought him home one day, but refused to acknowledge the cat. “I bet you do not miss him,” Scarlet sighed, reclining against the back of the tub.

“Ten years. Ten years to the day. Ten years and I still miss him.”




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Lindsay Cross wrote 7 days ago

I finished all 5 chapters.
I find it well written, but would consider it a budding love story in a dated time that is just starting to develope an inkling of a mystery at this part of the book.
There is a small splatter of word mistakes, but I got to like the story more after chapter 3. The plot was a little slow getting out of the gate. If you meant this to be a mystery it needs more action from the beginning to drive the plot along.

Overall, enjoyable.
Lindsay Cross

Lindsay Cross wrote 7 days ago

Chapter 2 Few word errors. You use a modern term - elephant in the room. Does not fit. Like the story but no surpense so far.

Lindsay Cross

Lindsay Cross wrote 7 days ago

Just finished chapter 1. Found it a bit long. A mystery could start with some force, say the part about her going to find Mr. Redd and then leaving him. Put more suspense in the going through the streets and the discussion with Mr. Redd.Then use her coming home to start another chapter.(Just my opinion) Agree with some of the things already commented on.
But I do like the air of mystery and makes me want to read on. I like your writing, sentence and word structure are fine.
You have one long paragraph of her leaving Mr. Redd and then continuing to her coming home and speaking to her mom. Maybe that is the cut off point, in any case, should be two paras.

Will read on
Lindsay Cross

Like it so far.

Dimanagul wrote 39 days ago

Return review:

Pitches: The short pitch could cut to the chase. The After a decade… part doesn’t do anything for me. I’d rather have an exciting detail on what they do to accomplish this. The long pitch in a bit better but the first paragraph is all set up. The second one doesn’t pull me in as it gives the impression the entirety of the book is spend in an attic digging through boxes. The second to last sentence starts to pluck at an interesting point, but it is also incredibly vague.

First impressions:

You have the main character in a busy street, pushing through a tide of pedestrians. You should describe that rather than *telling* me she is lost. Also once you start showing, you shouldn’t waste words on ‘attempts’ at action. Either someone does something or they don’t. A failed action can be written as an action in itself (Stumbled vs. Tried to walk and…)

Also, unfolding a piece of paper isn’t exciting. Don’t spend three sentences on it. Also once the wind takes it. Just have it happen. “Scarlet neglected to tighten...” You’re being wordy about an action that didn’t happen. What you should be writing is the action of her narrow miss of catching it.

“Scarlet shrilly uttered.” That tag… I’m not a fan of said replacements but this this one is particularly jarring. Let your dialogue shine and carry the meaning not the tags. Same with stuff like: “the lie was heavy on her tongue.” Don’t over describe every line.

Adverbs are devouring this piece in general. (They’re fine to use, but just eye each one and ask yourself: Do I really need this one?)

That aside and once I pared out some of the clutter, the contrast between the characters is well done. My biggest concern is pacing. Imagine the conversations in this piece being read aloud. You wouldn’t have time for the narration offered in between lines. You need to justify pauses and deepen immersion by making the piece flow in real time. If someone asks a question: “Where did you find that?” the person asked will either: 1. Respond. *or* 2. Consider their response. Meaning when a character speaks a line that involves interaction… their tag should be short. The Action goes to the reacting party.

Too many times in this piece does a character say something and goes into two or three lines of narration. You can break this up by leading action before the dialogue in a justified pause. This makes for a natural illusion of conversation. Right now it feels like a dialogue choice game where two players are taking their time to go through each option one by one.

It may simply be a lack of appreciation of the approach, but I wasn't hooked because I couldn't keep my mind focused on the primary conflict. However I think it has the capacity to intrigue and hold that attention if the focus of the tale was tightened.

whoster wrote 120 days ago

As a resident of Bath, I thought I'd check-out the first chapter of this story. I'm not a reader of Historical Fiction, so I'm not qualified to say too much. I thought the dialogue sounded pretty authentic, but I think you could certainly add a little more detail concerning the city of Bath. The odd mention of famous landmarks such as Bath Abbey, Great Pulteney Street, Georgian architecture etc, would help give the reader a stronger feel for the book's setting.

I saw very little in the way of technical errors - though I think the sentence 'She clutched the paper with both hands to prevent it from slipping out of her fingers..." could be changed to "...slipping out of her grasp." Your following sentence mentions 'fingers,' so that would avoid any repetition.

One other thing - "She eyed Scarlet as she sat down on the bed and forcefully petted her car." I very much assume you meant 'cat!'

Anyway, it's a pretty smooth read, but I do think a little more descriptiveness of Bath would help.

Sheena Macleod wrote 163 days ago

Our Fathers by Marissa Priest

Genres- Romance, HF

The Title is perfect for the content. The short pitch says a lot in so few words
Succinct long pitch, reflecting the plot perfectly. A draw to read this book.
Edit point - All others feared if they would join ???– relook at this. Also space between feared and if.

Marissa, I loved this. I am a fanatical reader of HF, and this did not disappoint. The visuals portrayed by your writing in chapter one, as Scarlet searches the streets of Bath, are excellent. Cold , lost and determined. I liked all the small details, such as when- she pushed the feathers from her hat aside as she studies the wrinkled note – perfect imagery.
Chapter two moves to the POV of Cobb, and the reader learns more about this character.
Edit - Chapter two =Th(r)ough all that ?
What an unlikely duo, but their differences provide a great backdrop for this plot. It works well.
The work is also well written, and the characters three dimensional.
There is very little to comment on, as this work seems polished.
I intend to return and read more of this book. Good luck with publishing.

Carnival of Lies

Andrew Melvin wrote 164 days ago

A very well-written story using just the right kind of period language. I think the occasional longer sentence, rather than the constant short, staccato style, would give it more of a 19th century feel, but the story moves at a great pace and Scarlet and Colby are interesting characters with a playful and intriguing relationship.

This is one of the most thoroughly proofread stories I've seen on Authonomy, and I admire your determination to present your story in the most professional style. Such efforts deserve to be rewarded, and I hope 'Our Fathers' does well.

'The Policeman of Secrets'

sensual elle wrote 169 days ago

I do enjoy period pieces and I especially like period detective works. Good potential! Backed.

Elizabeth Kathleen wrote 335 days ago

Marissa, I've enjoyed reading your book. I was drawn in by the story and characters. You've done a nice job writing this. Your characters are well written as is your plot line. I hope to come back and finish it because the story line grabbed me!
God bless you!!!
Elizabeth Kathleen
"If Children are Cheaper by the Dozen, Can I Get a Discount on Six?"

Michael Ignotus wrote 369 days ago

An interesting premise delivered with an authentic sense of Victorian prose. I’m afraid it didn’t grab me, probably for precisely that reason, but for those interested in Victoriana I think it should work.

The difference in character and class between the two main characters was well and sharply drawn, and overall I liked the texture you brought to your descriptions of the world.

A story well worth pursuing, even if it didn’t grab me.

A couple of pedantic little points:
Para 3: ‘They were engrossed in their own tasks, which was what Scarlet desired. For her to achieve that, she needed one of them to surrender a minute of their time to a stranger...’ Don’t get this. These two sentences seem to be arguing at cross purposes – surely if she wants them to help her, she doesn’t want them engrossed in their own tasks?

‘Trod’ not ‘treaded’ (when Scarlet is explaining herself to Redd).

Good luck with it.

KateAnderson wrote 393 days ago

I don't know that there is much I can add to the comments already posted except that I am definitely enjoying this story. I love Scarlet's attitude and the fact that she not only intends to find out more about her father's death but that she challenges the status quo in doing so. She's got a lot of gumption and she is an incredibly relatable female character.

As for Colby, he is an immature, whining pain in the neck with an attitude problem a mile wide. I'd like to see Scarlet slap him at times but I sense he'll come around. Excellent writing. High stars!
Kate Anderson
Hospital Hill : A Novel

derekbirks wrote 417 days ago

Hi Marissa
Quite a lot has already been said in the comments so I'll try not to repeat it all!
I like the premise of the book a lot and I like the way the first chapter introduces Scarlet and Colby. Having read it I wanted to find out more. You create an excellent visual scene with your descriptive writing though I would sometimes be inclined to go for simplicity and leave out one or two adjectives and adverbs. This is a criticism I had which at first I just didn't get but I think now I'm inclined to edit a lot more and be ruthless. The advantage is a clearer impact on the reader. Mind you, what do I know?

InquireTheOrigin wrote 417 days ago

This was foreign and beautiful. Your writing style is a bit different from most of the book I've encountered. As if all may say, "This is just another Historical Fiction," I'd reply, "To hell its not!". Its interesting work. I really love the development for your plot. Characterization leaves me in awe. It's interesting and keeps me reading. I would love to see more from you and I can't wait to see what else you have in store. I will keep myself updated on your book.

With Love & Best Of Wishes
A.D. Reid

Patty Apostolides wrote 419 days ago

Our Fathers - Ch. 1-4

I enjoyed this story immensely. The scenes were realistic as the first chapter unfolds; the hustle and bustle of Victorian England feels real as Scarlet makes her way around town, looking for a certain street, holding the piece of paper that was guiding her footsteps.

The plot is solid - Scarlet is searching to learn more about her father's mysterious
death in a fire. She goes in search of Colby, whose father also died in the fire. He is reluctant to get involved, but essentially joins her. Together, they search for clues.

Scarlet lives with her mother, and her mother wants her to get married and doesn't know anything about her search for her father's past. When they go to the dinner, Scarlet meets Thisby, who seems interested in her, and this brings a lighter touch to the story.

Although the young man who grabs the flying paper gives a menacing feel to the story, and adds some adventure to Scarlet's walk, I felt that a lot of attention was given him, especially if he is not playing a role in the story. If you plan to use him later, that's a different story..

I like the way Scarlet is bold and assertive, although I cringed a little when she entered Colby's residence without a chaperone. I would have liked to have known where she got her boldness from. Colby's unkempt, alcoholic character is revealed very well, and his apartment shows signs. He has all kinds of hangups and weaknesses. I wonder if she will eventually influence him for the better? Is this a love match? If so, I would have liked to have seen more description of him that shows him in a little better light.

I would like to know more about the ages of Scarlet and Colby.

Overall worth a six stars and will back soon!

Patty Apostolides
The Greek Maiden and the English Lord

rikasworld wrote 423 days ago

I think you set the Victorian scene very convincingly. I like the name contrast in Scarlet and Colby and the contrast of their feelings about their respective fathers. Lots of very realistic details in Scarlet's walk through the street and coughing fit in the dusty rooms. Just off phrases I thought didn't quite work. 'Sense of misplacement' I wasn't quite sure of the meaning, maybe just sense of being in the wrong place or out of his element? Also shouldn't it be a 'Sense of Comradeship'?
Sorry to be picky. I hope that it useful rather than annoying.
Very enjoyable. I do like historical detective books!

Nigel Fields wrote 441 days ago

I enjoyed chapter two and will say that the story progresses well. My only nit is that I think it might read better if you replace some of the Scarlets with she.

Joseph Sale wrote 443 days ago

P.S. High stars and WL

- Joseph Sale

Joseph Sale wrote 443 days ago

Hi Marissa

Thanks very much for reading and backing Wolf Rising. I really like the premise of this book, it has great humour and wit, and the writing flows very well - something you can't teach.

This is a great entry into the detective genre, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I don't like to not make a few pointers however, just so you can get your money's worth as it were!! These are only minor little pernickity things, but I feel they could improve this already excellent book even further.

I would say that I feel some of the passages are too long at points. The introduction is very captivating, but I feel it goes on for just one or two paragraphs more than it needs - perhaps you could consider abbreviating some of the description of the 'note' - you don't need to say much about it, a 'scrawled note' would instantly put the image in the head of the reader, without need for lengthy passages of description, though they are very well written. If she found the hosue just a little sooner, i feel the action woulld be propelled in a far more pacy way.

Also, you say that she has had a 'lifetime of memorising' the name - this is a slightly awkward phrase, perhaps 'a lifetime of knowing' would be better?

One last tiny point - she gets back far, far too easily considering the fuss she's had to get there - you might want to put just one sentence in about, 'the way back was far easier now that she had orientated herself' or some such (a poor example but just giving you ideas).

Overall a great effort that makes me want to read on.

-Joseph Sale

Nigel Fields wrote 445 days ago

I really enjoyed this first chapter. The pace flowed in sync with Scarlet's wandering, putting us right there with her among the 'river' of pedestrians and street vendors. I like that her voice was shrill when she was replying to an undesirable helper--what intrigue and tension he presented! Great. As a nit, if might read better to avoid an unnecessary ly-adverb (shrilly uttered). How 'bout: She replied, her voice shrill. ?? The chapter rounds out well. I'll pop back for more as soon as I can. I like it very much.

Trenor wrote 445 days ago

Marrisa, first I just want to thank you for backing my work. It is greatly appreciated!

Our Fathers is well-written and the premise looks interesting. Just one bit of constructive feedback that I hope will help: If I had not read that this occurred in 1880 I would not have known - at least for awhile. I would suggest painting a visual picture from the beginning by bolstering descriptions. Not only of the surroundings, but the people.
Its a bit funny because I noticed that one of the comments complained that there was TOO MUCH description! ha. I get contradicting advise too . . . but my advice is better! ;-)


Andrea Taylor wrote 446 days ago

Having written a book set on 1850's England, I was keen to read this. On the whole I enjoyed the chapters I read. Only nit-pick, being English I did spot a few 'Americanisms' creeping in, but no doubt and editor would correct that. You spelt grey as gray, and he would have said, "me and me mates." The word ruccus would be unknown, and she would be more 'shocked and horrified' when he thought he had slept with her, rather than stunned. To be considered 'that type of woman' in those days was the worst insult you could give a lady.
I also felt the description at the start of Scarlet in the street, was overlong so took away the drama of her situation. That apart, this is a fine story, s with some editing I think you are on to a winner.
The de Amerey Affair

Maevesleibhin wrote 728 days ago

I read everything you posted.
This is a very effective romance-cum-detective story. It has the gritty, mysterious atmosphere of a 19th century British detective story combined with the manneristic victorian romance. You show the two extremes very well. I think this is very successful and a fun read. I give this high stars, and it is certainly worthy of a spin on my shelf at a future shuffle.
Hook an plot: I found the start of this full of good, mysterious ambiance. It made me very curious. You very effectively bring out the discomfort that Scarlet feels at being in this part of town and the deep curiosity of wanting to find out the truth behind her father's demise. I think that the juxtaposition alone was effective, and made me want to read on. I did have a bit of a hard time understanding why now, of all times, she became interested, but you cover this issue effectively. After this, plot develops around the two stories of Scarlet refusing a husband and the two looking for clues as to their fathers' demise. The first story is rather classic and unsurprising, but fits the paradigm well. The second one is what makes the read interesting. I did find their searches in the apartment a bit frustrating for their lack of conclusiveness. The few clues that they find are so frustratingly unhelpful that I wound up a bit unnerved myself. Although I realise that this is partially the point, I think that you could do with giving us a bit more satisfaction from time to time. For instance, I was not sure what the point was with the mattress. Did she bring it back in just to use in a later romantic scene? What about the book he was holding, whose spine he hid?
Character Development- I think Scarlet is developed very well, because we get the chance to see her in so many settings. She is a very well rounded character. Colby is rather more sketchy. You may want him that way, but his heavy drinking makes a bit of a shield of his real character. I found the mother and the maid particularly well painted, while the suitors seemed almost caricatures. This is not surprising, however- I find that it is often the case in romance that this happens to the male characters.
Ambiance- I think this is very good in most of the book, but in chapter five it gets a bit skim, especially at the end, when she shows up at the police station and sees Colby, without any description being given to how she entered the building or what the cell looked like.
So, I think that this is going in a good direction. The changes I see necessary are relatively small, and are mostly in ambience and description at the end of the section, and a few more clues in the middle. The romantic tension between Colby and Scarlet, an union which is clearly forbidden, is well done.
Here are some notes as I read.
Nice development of Scarlet. Corset is a nice touch.
Ch 2
Shone directly through window.
The missing.
Breathing deep
Colby is good
How did he get back in if it's booby trapped?
Henry Casandra.
She pulled the book of the shelf.
Should be off
For steeping near her
Recommend description of jail cell as she comes to get him.

Best of luck with it,

Philthy wrote 756 days ago

Hi Marissa,
I’m here for our read swap. Below are my comments/findings. They are of course my humblest opinions, so please take them for whatever they’re worth. Feel free to disregard what you don’t agree with.
I would parse out the first sentence of your long pitch. It gets a little winded, which is counterproductive for the goal of a pitch.
You’ve already used the adjective “dusty” in the short pitch. Consider something else.
Otherwise, great pitches!
Chapter One
Great opening-line hook!
Just a small, nitpicky thing that you can totally ignore if you don’t agree, but I wonder if that second sentence would read better as “It was her own fault, which she reminded herself of with every step.”
“to guide her feet” I’d drop feet. The address is guiding her and she’s guiding her feet.
Is “airy” the word you mean? It means nonchalant. She sounds like she ought to be frantic. Maybe I’m misreading the character, but I thought I’d note it.
“Unfortunately, they neglected to pass her by in peace.” You’ve already alluded to this by calling it the jostling river of pedestrians. For better characterization, delete this line and jump right into “Elbows, hips and baskets knocked against Miss Black.” (end sentence there. “Without a word of apology does not work, as elbows and hips can’t apologize. Plus, it’s implied that it’s rude. The apology is an unnecessary semantic in getting your point across)
Delete “around her” Its’ wordy.
“They were focused on their own paths, which is precisely what Scarlet desired.” She desired their paths?
“They followed her” First, you can drop “her.” Second, you haven’t established that she’s left, only that she looked away, so they can’t be following her yet. Maybe they’re just approaching, or maybe she begins to walk away and then they follow.
This is a great start to the story. I love the subtle accents in the dialogue. Some may not be a fan of that approach, but I think you pull it off well. The dialogue is good at carrying the story, too. I also really like your narrative voice. I’m already drawn into the MC simply by your voice.
My biggest suggestion is to watch the wordiness. While the writing is clean and polished and the storytelling is solid, you sometimes over explain things or add words that are unnecessary. For instance, Miss Black’s reaction to her surroundings as well as how the crowd of men peers at her is enough to tell me that she’s out of place there. Yet, you then tell the reader in different ways that she’s out of place (“odd sight of a formally dressed woman walking on her own”—formally dressed calls for a hyphen, btw). This kind of thing isn’t necessary. You’ve already painted such a vivid picture.
Great stuff. Highly starred. I can see this doing well here.
Best of luck.
(Deshay of the Woods)

Shelby Z. wrote 766 days ago

Your descriptions in this book are very vivid to the reader.
All that I read flowed really well.
It is a bit weird that your book has bold letters in places.
Otherwise things are done well.
I like the cover.

Shelby Z./Driving Winds

P.S. Please, when you have time, take a look at my pirate adventure Driving Winds.

Neville wrote 769 days ago

Our Fathers.
Marissa Priest.

Hi Marissa,
I have read and backed your book before, a long time ago.
I'm pleased that I came across it again.
It's been edited quite a lot now and is much sharper and better for it.
You are an acomplished writer I must say. Great stuff, well done.
Pleased to 'star rate' your book.

Kind regards,

Neville The Secrets of the Forest - The Time Zone.

FRAN MACILVEY wrote 778 days ago

Dear Marissa

I have read the first three chapters of "Our Fathers" and have enjoyed the sense of place that you convey here. Your characters are well observed and the details of their lives are engaging.

It might help readers on Authonomy if you would consider uploading your story in an easier font, a sans serif font, like Tahoma or Ariel, which has fewer corners and edges to crowd the space.

Though your allusions to "Gone With The Wind" are endearing, I have to admit that I find the combination of names, Scarlett Black and Redd a little too unlikely to be convincing. Perhaps Lettice, Edith or Elizabeth...

I am a little confused by the social placing of the story. If the household without a father is able to afford a butler, mother would probably be scandalised, unlikely to allow her daughter to wander around unescorted. Scarlett would be in disgrace. Similarly, it is unlikely that mamma would ever yell up the stairs to summon the help. She would either send another maid or ring a bell.

If the household was financially down on its luck, as seems likely given the absence of a father, there would probably be no butler, though the household might be able to afford a maid and a cook, and Scarlet would be likely to have more freedom, both to make visits alone, and to boss her mother around. The social restrictions that money would in all likelihood pay for, would be loosened.

A small point - when Scarlet and Colby are out walking, it is most unlikely that she would have to slow down to allow him to keep pace. Probably the other way round! Her corsets and skirts make walking much slower.

Also, give your MS a good combing for repetition and if in doubt about a phrase, you can probably leave it out. Reading aloud will help you decide.

I am glad I found your book today. You have a convincing, even amusing style which you have worked hard on. Your MS is clean, well presented and articulate. I wish you all the best.

Fran Macilvey, "Trapped" :)

Writer in Red wrote 784 days ago

To start out, I am loving your story and I want to help you as much as I can. It may take a few posts or comments so stay with me. In the first paragraph I noticed your first three sentences use the verb "was." Action verbs are a good tool to use for suspenseful, mysterious and dramatic moments. It also helps paint a brighter picture in the reader's mind. The first two sentences are good (just make the comma between "fault" and "she" into a semicolon). The reason why I am focusing hard on the opening lines is because this is the time when you must grab the reader's attention. Continuing...The third sentence might sound more vivid if you replaced "was" with an action verb. "She continued walking..." for example. The next sentence begins with "She." I point this out because using the same word to start following sentences can sound strange or look unprofessional (in my personal opinion). Sometimes it helps to reinstate the person's name, such as "Scarlet Black" though I do not think in this case it is necessary to change it (just for future reference). My last comment is about the city you are in. You speak of a city, then a street name. Where am I? Still a very good start. I am enjoying it.

The sentence talking about the passerby's neglection feels odd to me. I think it can be reworded differently.

"flat against a shop window"; "leaving her abandoned in the crowd." (no "s" I believe) The following sentence may sound better with the words arranged as so... "Swatting away the drooping elongated feathers from her hat, she tried to read her directions though the smeared numbers and words could not guide her." ------just a suggestion.

Love the following paragraph. It shows so much emotion, personality and description of Scarlet's world. Though I do notice you have used the word "passing" a lot up to the fifth paragraph.

One might want to change the order of the first and second sentence of paragraph four.

"That, however, was an impossibility." Comma after "that"
"Crumpling up the paper and shoving it into her coat pocket, she hoped answers would be found at one hundred and seven Checker Street." You use the verb "returned" and it sounded off to me. Sentence could use rewording.

I think I will stop there for now and return later on. I hope my suggestions help. I love the dialogue, sounds real and inviting, and the writing is superb. High stars and I hope to help more in the future.

earthlover wrote 786 days ago

Read through chapter three.
Your story idea is great! Both the MC Scarlet and her new friend, Colby have things to overcome in different areas. These plot points, combined with all the other twists and turns a mystery includes, make for a great read.
One thing I'd advise.
Some of your sentences read a little awkward. I felt like you wrote "Scarlet" way too many times and it took away from the rhythm of the words. Many of your sentences begin in the same way, causing a disjointed feeling in the narrative.
I'd advise you to read it aloud, maybe to a trusted friend, and think about the cadence and rhythm of the story. The sentences need to be varied, not all the same.
I've already recommended this to someone in the forum! I like the playfulness with the words, "black" and "red." Scarlet is determined, defying her mother, society, but keeping true to the love she has in her heart for her father. She has something to teach Colby.
Good luck with this!
The Woman From E.A.R.L.

D. S. Hale wrote 841 days ago

I love your descriptive voice. Even tho I've never been to Bath, or of course lived in that era, I could see it clearly. Great job! I like the tone, and the atmosphere. You know how to use a descriptive verb or noun so that you only have to use your adjectives/adverbs sparingly. Your writing flows easily for the reader.

Great job so far! I'm putting you in myWL, and giving you high stars!
D. S. Hale
Jessup and the Teleporter

bunderful wrote 841 days ago

I really enjoyed what I read here so far. There is definitely an air of Sherlock Holmes going on here - in a very good way - the voice and style reminds me very much of his work.

My only criticism, because the writing was consistently good and grammatically sound, is that I was unsure about the time period of the novel until about the 5th or 6th chapter when she mentions her boots and attire. Perhaps a simple date at the top of the page would help clarify that?

Like I said, really good stuff here. I'd definitely read on.

All the best,


Oriax wrote 843 days ago

Hello Marissa,

I’ve just read the first chapter and have jotted down a few thoughts, mainly based on Victorian novels I’ve read, I’m no expert myself. I’ve just finished a Wilkie Collins and I’m still immersed in Victoriana!

I liked the description of the dirty streets, the noise and the mud, and you evoke very well the dilema of a young woman out on the streets on her own. I did wonder though if Scarlett, who is from a relatively comfortable background would not have taken a cab to cross Bath, especially if she was going to the slummy areas. I’m not sure ‘ladies’ did much walking around on their own.
Also, if Mr Redd is a scruffy poverty-stricken character he wouldn’t be living in a house by himself but sharing a squalid tenement.
I found Scarlett’s return home slightly confusing, her relationship with her mother was odd, and even more so with the maid. Usually maids were pretty invisible and Patty is rather familiar with the young mistress. I suspect a mystery here, as if Patty is not just an ordinary servant. I also put animals in my stories and liked the touch of Johnny the cat, but I found that he distracted me from what Patty was doing. I’m convinced she’s up to something, with Scarlett’s connivance I suspect.
I don’t read modern thrillers (I have trouble with plots – stupidity no doubt) but I love Victorian thrillers, hence the Wilkie Collins. I’ll carry on with this and keep you up to date with my thoughts.
Have a great New Year

K.R.Slifer wrote 849 days ago


I'm here for our readswap!! I am engrossed already! I had to stop myself from reading all 5 chapters. I've finished chapter one and so far, I'm really intrigued by Scarlet and her family. I like the idea of an almost Sherlock Holmes story between Mr. Black and Mr. Redd. So far, I dont really have a good idea of who Scarlet is, but that doesn't bother me since it is the first chapter. I wonder about her dynamic with Pattie and why she thinks her father hated her cat, Johnny.

I think you have set up a good first chapter that sets the tone and mood of the whole story very well while alos creating enough suspense to hook the reader! I know I definitely want to read more!

The Darkness of Gold

ShadowOfOsiris wrote 864 days ago

Hi Marissa

I don't know how this got on my watchlist, but here it is. Perhaps it's because I was born in Bath. Anyway, my notes I write as I go, so some questions may be answered a bit later in the text, but I think it's still good to know what the reader will be thinking as they go:

Going home is an 'impossibility'? I think 'wasn't an option' (arguably a cliche) or something along those lines might be better, unless you literally mean it's impossible because it's a pile of rubble now or something!

'she returned to moving towards the answers...' - this is a little bit awkward

The paragraph 'She strode with as much purpose [...] until she reached Checker Street.' seems to repeat itself a few times. As far as I can tell, it doesn't actually do so, but it does seem like it somehow.

'The mumbers one hundred and seven' - are you saying '100 and 7' or '107'... I think I'd call the latter 'number', singular.

'oncoming traffic of horse(-)drawn carriages...' - I'd say either 'traffic' or 'horse-drawn carriages', not both.

If she is that nervous about what she's about to find, would she really stop to inspect her dress?

'He(,) however, already guessed...'

'...these people for even a second, that is...until recently' - I think a semi-colon or fullstop would work better than a comma.

She locked the door; how did Pattie walk in?

'why we HAD to wear so much'?

I'd like a hot bath now :(

I like Scarlett, although the way she acted with the cat was quite a departure from how she is portrayed up until that point. It is well written, seemingly in keeping with the time, but without annoying, hard to fathom terms and overly complicated writing that often comes with such a date. There's not much else I can say, but I think it will do well. I like the premise a lot, and I may come back to read more at some point. I'll back it :)

I think sci fi probably isn't your kind of genre, but I'd appreciate a comment on my own book, too, if you have a chance. Thanks :)

Dianna Lanser wrote 867 days ago


I read through chapter three and right away I was impressed with the determined voice of Scarlet, the “sense- around” descriptions, and your obvious expert knowledge of 19th century living. Your story moves along seamlessly. The only place that made me stutter a bit was the end of the first chapter. I thought maybe too much attention was given to the cat and bath. I wanted to continue with the plot. I love Colby’s character and am looking forward to him warming to the idea of helping Scarlet and maybe even finding some healing for his sad soul.

I really like all the secret compartments and hidden stashes… That’s what good dreams and stories are made of----and of course, the possibility of romance.

By the end of chapter three I felt thoroughly committed to reading the entire book. You did a great job hooking me. There were just a few easy fixes you might want to make:

In the second chapter with the paragraph starting, “We are going to have to clean and organize this place.” I believe “feel” should be “fell.”

The in the next paragraph, the sentence that states, “Muttering, Colby pulled out (of) a stack of papers he was sitting on” is a little awkward.

In the third chapter paragraph beginning, “It’s unwise for a lady such as myself…” I think the “has” should be “had” - It was obvious Colby has (had) no desire to accompany… and then the last sentence in that paragraph is not quite right.

And the paragraph beginning, “Brandy, ” Mrs. Black replied.” In the next sentence “Scarlet stopped at (and) stared down at her mother…”

Farther down “Most of her youth was spend (spent) locked away.” Actually that whole sentence is not quite right.

“Well I’m not like every woman,” she retorted. She has (had) the strongest urge…”

All in all, I believe Our Father’s is a promising start to an intriguing novel. Highly starred. I’ll be back to read the final two chapters and to comment again soon.

Dianna Lanser
Nothing But The Blood

A G Chaudhuri wrote 870 days ago

Dear Marissa,

Your writing has the feel of a period film. I loved it. Your passion for the genre is quite evident and you seem to have researched well in trying to recreate the England of 1880s. Well done. Your descriptions are atmospheric, drawing me instantly into the busy but strangely bleak streets of Bath. I was able to SEE through Scarlet’s eyes. The authentic dialogue was an added boon.

As the story progressed, I kept feeling that I was reading one of Sir Arthur’s immortal creations (I’m a huge fan of the gaunt faced, pipe smoking bohemian, btw.) Maybe, it was the reference to Baker Street or the name ‘Scarlet’ (?), I don’t know really, but I found myself warming up to the story.

By the end of chapter 1, I got the distinct impression that this has all the makings of an ‘unputdownable’ mystery novel, although you’ve not categorised it as such. I’ll keep coming back to it to see where it’s headed. My rating for now: 6 stars (Definitely!)

Please allow me a few nitpicks.
- Try not to repeat the character names too often
- A few of the sentences are a tad too long and wordy. You can easily break them into two without losing the voice and intensity
- You can try naming a few of the magazines in Colby’s room, to throw some more light on his character which is otherwise quite well developed
- You’ve devoted a lot of text to the part where Scarlet returns home, confronts her mother and finally ends up in the bath. It’s all very well written, once again showcasing your thorough research into the customs of that period. It also says a few things about Scarlet. But I have just one concern. Being the opening chapter, it’s better if you end it on a different note, something less routine and ordinary.

So that’s it for now. Hope you find my views useful. Happy writing.

Best regards,

AunaJune wrote 881 days ago

Interesting idea and great details. You create a suspense throughout and it draws the readers in. I will definitely recommend this to a few people. I wish you the best of luck.

Auna June
Catalaysia: The Curse of Five

AunaJune wrote 891 days ago

Interesting. A little compelling.
Your characters are dynamic and feel real to the readers.
Your setting is great.
The writing style is both simple and extraordinary. Clearly well-written and has had some time spent on it.
The dialogue is interesting and the reader's feel as if they are in the scene.
Overall, I like what I have seen and will be back for more. It is a great start for a decent book, and is captivating.

Auna June
Catalaysia: The Curse of Five

Seraphim62 wrote 902 days ago

Hi Marissa,
Sorry it's taken me a while to get around to reading, but my WL is very long.
I've read the first two chapters and can see that you're a solid writer who knows how to describe a scene well as I was sucked into the 19th century very quickly.
The premise is good and the narrative has great promise. From the way you've written these 2 chapters, it looks as though your plot will thicken as time goes on, each chapter raising a new mystery. I like that.
However, I felt like the begining of the book needed a bit of...suspence. Maybe an opening chapter allowing the reader to witness Redd and Blacks death, really bringing them into the story.
I think that crime/mystery fans will love this tale - the grime of 19th century England brings and great sense of dark mystery.
I wish you the best of luck.
To Rise an

Terje wrote 908 days ago

I really like this, and think the whole set up is orignal. I am looking forward to reading more. One small thing - there are a few anachronisms which do grate a bit and would be worth checking throguh. For example 'sorry ass', which is both modern and American; and 'conflicted'; and a couple of others. I don't mean to be pedantic, and it would be crazy to try to be too exact, but little things like that do have an effect. I really hope you don't mind my mentioning them.

The comedy is great and the general sense of good humour lovely; yet the puzzle is looking intriguing. I will read through more carefully over the next few days. When will you be putting more up?

Terje wrote 908 days ago

I really like this, and think the whole set up is orignal. I am looking forward to reading more. One small thing - there are a few anachronisms which do grate a bit and would be worth checking throguh. For example 'sorry ass', which is both modern and American; and 'conflicted'; and a couple of others. I don't mean to be pedantic, and it would be crazy to try to be too exact, but little things like that do have an effect. I really hope you don't mind my mentioning them.

The comedy is great and the general sense of good humour lovely; yet the puzzle is looking intriguing. I will read through more carefully over the next few days. When will you be putting more up?

Shieldmaiden wrote 917 days ago

I read three chaps and I was thrilled with what I read. Such a story of its own! I love the characters, the setting, the voice and tone of the's lovely. I did find a few errors, like "waist" when you meant "wrist". And I found some of the cat sequences a bit drawn on, but all of it is quaint and winning. I love it! You have shaped out this world for us well and fully. And Scarlet--I love her character. And Colby. So interesting! I have to say one of his defining impressions is when he in shock ask if she was one of his mistresses. Ha! It was so funny and humor always wins with me. I did think that in the beginning, when she blows the feather out of her face, the beginning of the sentence wasn't necessary. We know she wants to see clearly, we can judge from her actions alone. But again, beautiful story with tremendous potential. You make sure this hits the shelves. And you tell me when it does! I'll back when I have the room, and I'm giving six stars.
I wish you the best of luck!


WillNovy wrote 924 days ago

I've always enjoyed this time period so naturally, I enjoyed reading the first chapter. As many people have already pointed out, it has a Sherlock Holmes type of feel which is very fun. One thing you have is very well defined characters. I'm allergic to cats and reading about Johnny I almost sneezed as if I was in the room with him.

The only critique I is more about formatting than story. Might be a good idea to put your dialogue on its own separate line and then continue on with description just because it helps shrink up your paragraphs and I can visually see how much dialogue is in the chapter, as opposed to it being camouflaged within the description like it is now.

Other than that your beginning and ending were strong in hooking me in and I look forward to reading more later. I wish you luck on getting to the Editors Desk. I think they'd really enjoy this one.

Philthy wrote 931 days ago

Hi Marissa,

I’m finally getting the opportunity to check out your novel. So sorry it’s taken me this long.

Love the pitches, though they do get a bit wordy in parts. Might consider condensing to just the hooks, shedding unnecessary back story when appropriate.

I read the first couple chapters. I love the premise and the storyline. The characters are well-done, too. You have a mind for description and you’re on the right track, but I think some scrubs are in order to smooth out the unnecessary words and wordiness in sentences. For instance:
--“she reminded herself of” cut “of”
--“She remained astray from her path” is sort of already assumed by the rest of that paragraph.
--“When she glanced down at the paper, she squinted” Just “She squinted at the paper.” Would suffice

Also, I’m not fond of that last line in the first paragraph. It’s not clear. I think you mean that the only thing she knows is that she’s disoriented, but that doesn’t really tell us much of what’s going on, and it’s unnecessarily word. You can just say that she’s disoriented.

Good stuff! High stars for sure. Good luck with this.

(Deshay of the Woods)

gms1983 wrote 933 days ago

Some very nice work, I like the characters, and despite me not being particularly a fan of the period, I couldn't stop reading and was wishing for more at the end.

When I can post it on my bookshelf it's going up.

Susanna.K.James wrote 933 days ago

This is a delightful start to your historical mystery novel. The period detail is spot on and the atmosphere just right. The only thing is I was surprised she had 'train' on a day dress (perhaps 'hem' might be more appropriate and I Felt that she repeated herself a bit with the vendor - asking his twice about Chester Street. I also felt that Colby's immediate reference to sex was far too modern for a Victorian novel. It might have been better to have just had him ask if she was from 'The Hog's Head' and leave the implication dangling, although I suspect that she does not look a bit like a whore. Anyway, well done. Highly starred and backed.
'The Missing Heiress'

revteapot wrote 937 days ago

I've not much to add to what's below, though I'll just mention that if you're talking about 'trousers' you probably want to refer to 'braces' not 'suspenders' (which in British English hold up stockings!)

It's a good read.

Thanks for backing A Priest's Tale ;)


KGleeson wrote 937 days ago

I've read the opening chapter of your novel and see that you've made a good effort creating a sense of the time period. There is much period detail and also some nice touches for the other senses besides sight. You might think a bit about sounds- rattle of passing carriages. But overall a nice job. The premise is interesting, a male and female team to make a kind of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Very good and appealing. Though the personalities are definitely different. I do like that you made Redd a bit eccentric and dissheveled and the sense of primness that I get from her that underlies her assertive nature makes a good foil for him. You have the backstory unfold over a few scenes which is good. You don't want to dump it in all at once. I'm wondering why it's taken her ten years to get this far and can only assume she wasn't old enough before to do much.

There are a few things I thought to suggest to you for your consideration. I am a bit concerned at the title Red and Black. The French novel, The Red and the Black by Stendahl is iconic and from roughly the same time period and examines class snobbery, etc. This might do your own novel a disservice in since it's not a parody or pastishe of it agents, etc. might be put off. You might just consider re-titling it. Titles should have something concrete but also a unique selling point of the novel. Maybe something like The Detective Legacy - A Scarlett and Colby Mystery. Only a suggestion, I just wouldn't want it to be dismissed out of hand.

You also might consider looking a bit closer at your opening section where there is some repetition and awkward phrasing. Later on it really flows well and the story pace is good. In the second paragraph where she's trying to make out the address you have many sentences for that action that could be tightened up into one or two and improve the pace. Something like "With an airy sigh she stepped out from the river of pedestrians and leaned against the wall to re-examine the paper containing the address. She gave a brief swat to the hat feather that obscured her view but the address was still unreadable." I didn't use blurred because you already used it in the opening paragraph.

Further down there is another area you might look at again when she has the wind whipping around. You talk about the wind for several sentences and really a brief mention will do. "The winter wind whipped at her cloak and hat, loosening the pins in her hair. You've established the time period and the wind in one sentence. No need to over do it with the bustle, etc. You can bustle her up for a later time if you want.

Another element I thought I would mention is to do with class and fashion. You have Colby wondering if she was some whore with child. Now this would work if he were joking with her (and it would work well so you could establish her primness). He would never in reality mistake her for a whore because they would dress entirely differently than she would. So all it would mean is to delete the relief on his face and replace it with a twinkle and later a laugh, or something.

Later on you do mention that she searched the room when she's home, presumably looking for the cat. Instead of saying "she searched the room." Show it by saying she lifted the skirt of the sofa cover, looked behind chairs. That gives much more action and is less vague and we can get the idea she's looking for a cat and not searching desks and behind cushions for bottles (I thought maybe ma was an alcoholic for a moment) or letters or whatever.

This is a really good idea though with strong characters. I've enjoyed what I read so far and hope to read on soon. Kristin

MrKarats wrote 938 days ago


I read 3 of the posted chapters and I have now a good image of what your wrting and your plot is about.

I think you have the ability to describe a scene following it closely from the POV of your characters. This had a very positive impact on me when the scene was about Scarlet and Colby (awesome names, the noir atmosphere is right there). They make an interesting couple, and I couldn't help my smirking all the time -as Colby couldn't help his too, hahahaha.

They are both solid and fully fleshed and enjoyed every moment reading about them.

This was not the case with the scenes in Scarlet's home, however. The first one -the second half of chapter 1- is a scene where you seem to be trying to offer me insight on Scarlet's father and her life in general introducing characters that are used in other chapters as well. I would suggest to consider shortening the whole scene. Keep the facts as they are (most of all Johnny...he is a fine addition) but -and it's the first time I'm saying this- I felt it would be better if you *told* me about it all instead of *showing*? It felt a bit long for the information offered.

I'm a plot driven reader (and writer) and I like things to-the-point. Your story has it's plot introduced in the first chapter, whic made me feel at ease. That is the only reason I am commenting on the second half of the 1st chapter. If that makes sense to you that's fine, if not discard it...

The second chapter went by in a flash. Again enjoyable, the right amount of description and that awkward chemistry between your lead characters. I have nothing to say here, and hope that it will go on like this...

The third chapter started with the scene on the road, which -again- I enjoyed smirking all along. But then I entered Scarlet's home again and things slowed down again. I felt I wanted to stop, despite the fact that an arranged marriage was mentioned - a prolific idea. Again, however, I wish you had chosen the way of telling everything till the dialogue...

I can see you are a gifted writer as your imaging flows like the pictures on the big screen and your atmosphere bore the feeling of a classic noir film. I would have enjoyed a faster pace, but that's just me. :)

You deserve the 6stars, only to prove to you that if it wasn't for that pace of yours, I would have read it all and asked for more.


Nick Poole2 wrote 940 days ago

    Miss Scarlet Black was lost. It was her own fault though, a fact she was fully aware of. SHAKY LINE...I RESUME THE OWN FAULT IS HER POINT OF VIEW SO THE FULLY AWARE CLAUSE JUST APPEARS A TAD REDUNDANT. She was walking through the network of tight streets with only a blurry address written on a wrinkled scrap of paper. She left her house guaranteed to get lost at some point in this unfamiliar territory.
    “Baker Street? No. Decker Avenue? No, that is not it either,” she spoke softly to herself while peering at the streets surrounding her. TOO MUCH EXPLANATION...HOW ABOUT TELLING US WHAT SHE SEES INSTEAD OF THE FACT THAT SHE SEES IT? With an airy sigh, NO!!! I HATE SIGHING Scarlet stopped walking so she could look at the paper a second time. She stepped back to remove herself from the river of pedestrians while flattening the folded paper out with a finger. One of the feathers from her hat flopped down so she swatted it away in order to read clearly. The smeared numbers and words, now fresh in her eyes, still could not guide her in the right direction. More than anything else, she needed directions through the gray city of Bath. BATH? I THOUGHT BAKER STREET WAS...OH NEVER MIND. THE SENTENCE BEGINNING “THE SMEARED NUMBERS” SEEMS ILL DEVISED.
    “Excuse me, but do you know where I could find one hundred and seven Chester Street?” Scarlet turned to a passing street vendor. After refusing to buy any of the little man’s wares, she attempted to show him the bit of paper in her gloved hand. “Can you please point me in the direction of Chester Street?” she asked him once more. Only after intensely looking over her neatly dressed form did he speak. She felt uncomfortable under his beady eyes, but did not budge.
    “There ain’t any Chester ‘round here. If ya looking for Checker Street, that’s one more over,” he answered in a gruff voice. With Scarlet not providing him any business, he hurried away to pursue those with money smoldering in their pockets. SMOLDERING? AMERICAN SPELLING, I NOTE. 'M NOT CONVINCE MONEY SMOLDERING IN THE POCKET IS SUFFICIENTLY THE CENTURY BEFORE LAST..ALMOST AN ANACHRONISM?
    “Thank you,” Scarlet called out before he vanished behind the flocks of people. When she glanced down at the paper, she squinted. Indeed, the address very well could be Checker Street, instead of Chester. She could barely recall writing it down. At the time her mind was filled with more distracting thoughts; they danced around in her head to remind her tauntingly of her search. Looking up at the cloudy sky, she pondered what to do now. The vender probably knew this area of the city much better, so Scarlet decided to trust his directions. There were not many other options left that did not include turning around and heading home. That however, was an impossibility. Crumpling up the paper and shoving it in her coat pocket, she returned to moving towards the answers at one hundred and seven Checker Street.
She strode with purpose I'VE READ SUCH A LINE SOMEWHERE RECENTLY ON AUTHONOMY. MAYBE SHE COULD STRIDE WITHOUT PURPOSE (I'M NOT SURE HOW), BUT MAYBE SHE COULD STRIDE WITH AS MUCH PURPOSE AS SHE MUSTER, TO GIVE US THAT HINT THAT SHE DOESN'T LIKE BEING LOST, BUT SHE WILL BE DAMNED IF SHE WILL SHOW IT , moving swiftly despite the bulk of her light blue dress A BIT MORE EVOCATIVE COLOUR AND MAYBE SOME PERIOD DETAIL? . As she moved, the HER? bustle swished back and forth and her black boots clacked sharply on the cold [hard CUT?] street. Strong winter winds forcefully pushed at her as they whipped around the street corners. [She felt it pressing THEY PRESSED] against her black hat, and SHE was thankful for the pins securing it against her tightly curled hair. With each step, she pushed against the wind. While Scarlet felt propelled by the sounds of her venture, they barely stood out against the resounding din of the street. Everything around her was brisk and sharp, from the calls of old friends meeting each other to the angry shouts of intersecting cabbies. Scarlet was not accustomed to such a ruckus, but still rapidly moved herself through it. Stepping around shallow puddles from last night’s storm, Scarlet did not let her momentum falter. Even when the other pedestrians bustled INTERESTING ECHO OF THE BUSTLE SHE IS WEARING. RISKY DISTRACTION THOUGH past and knocked into her without a word of apology, she kept walking until she reached Checker Street. 
After gazing up THIS IS A STRANGE CLAUSE, LIKE A SUMMARY OF JUST ONE ACTION. AFTER GAZING AT SEVERAL, PERHAPS, OR SHE GAZED UP AT ONE at the row of lofty brick houses, she turned right. She could see the numbers one hundred and seven across the street. Scarlet darted towards her destination. Avoiding the oncoming traffic of horse drawn carriages and slime of the streets involved a great deal of maneuvering, yet only a few drops of dark rainwater hit Scarlet’s blue dress. With one hand, she held up as much of the train as she could and held down her black hat with the other. Once she arrived at the doorstep, she stopped to inspect the damage. The tiny dark marks stood out against the rich pink trim of her dress, but Scarlet knew they could be removed with the care of her maid that night. She dismissed the worry and smoothed out the fabric around her waist. All her thoughts now centered on what lay behind the door in front of her. Her heart beat against her ribcage, [eager for her great discovery to unleash its benefits. EH?]
    Retrieving the slip of paper for the last time, Scarlet shifted her eyes between the crumpled thing clenched in her gloved hand and the gold numbered plate to make sure they matched. She had indeed found the place. Giving her curled head a little shake WAS THE LITTLE SHAKE SIMULTANEOUS WITH ALL FOUR KNOCKS? OR DID SHE IN FACT GIVE HER HEAD A SHAKE AND THEN SMITE THE DOOR? , Scarlet knocked on the door four times. Then, taking a step backwards, she waited. To her extreme displeasure, nothing happened. Licking her lips, she knocked again, a tad [bit CUT] stronger this time. The silence inside the house continued. Now pursing her lips, AFTER LICKING THEM Scarlet began knocking BANGING? THUMPING? RAPPING? viciously. Finally, there was a crash from inside, a series of low thumps, and then the door opened.
    “What do you want?” a raggedy man AH! I LIKE RAGGEDY MEN asked her as he peered around [his front THE] door. Scarlet was silent with distress as she took in his disheveled appearance. The moment the door opened, her nose was flooded with an array of foul odors, dominated by the stink of sweat and alcohol. That alone created a desire to leave at once, yet it was just the first of his visible flaws to come to her attention. The man’s dirty blond hair was a tangled mess, with some locks sticking straight up and others matted against his head. Suspenders hung down from his waistband. His eyes were bloodshot with great bags underneath them. From that and the wrinkles all over his trousers and half-unbuttoned shirt, Scarlet assumed she woke her host from his afternoon nap. The stern frown confirmed it. “Have we met?” he asked her with a yawn. 
    “You see, it’s rather complicated. I’m-” Scarlet began her introduction, but was interrupted by the man stumbling forward with a shocked expression.
    “Are you from the Hog’s Head? Did I sleep with you?” he asked her with wide eyes. Taken aback, Scarlet had half a mind to slap him and leave at once.
    “Heavens no! I would never-”
    “Thank the lord. Thought you were another girl coming to tell me you were pregnant and I’m the father,” he laughed hoarsely, but his face showed immense relief. Still, Scarlet was stunned and could find no response for the man. She could not get over hearing him say “another”. Seeming to ignore this continued silence on her part, the man stepped aside. “Come in,” he spoke slowly, eyeing Scarlet for a second time. Giving him a short nod, Scarlet quickly stepped inside. Following behind her, the man quickly patted down his mangy hair in order to appear presentable for her. It was not helping him very much. His clothes were still half undone, and he didn’t appear to notice. She stopped in the front hall, waiting for him to introduce himself and offer to take her coat. The latter would have been difficult as Scarlet saw the there was no place to hang it. His were allowed to fall in a pile on the floor. It was uncomfortable, but Scarlet kept her coat on. Instead of speaking, he motioned with his other hand to show Scarlet the path into the main room. She timidly walked forward, her head filling with implausible fears that the ramshackled interior would collapse from the echo of her footsteps.

briantodd wrote 941 days ago

I would prefer to think that Scarlet Black name has come from Stendhal – the first realist after decades of gothic romance. With her co-MC, ‘Le Rouge et le Noir’ have significant literary precedents to go with their Victorian detective fathers of the potline. Interesting to see if the authors admiration of Collins (the Moonstone was the first detective novel, its Sergeant Cuff, the first literary detective) and Conan Doyle is reflected in the style.
As you start, Scarlet’s detective abilities don’t seem great – she has difficulty finding the house she is looking for. I think you could quicken the opening pace of the tale. Some editing would get her to the door of 107 Checker Street more quickly. When the door opens the story takes off. Your descriptions of people are top class, the mystery as to why this ‘proper’ young lady is visiting this raggedy man is enough in itself to propel us forward. I was surprised when he announced he was the other MC. Perhaps you should give us a hint by slipping in that he is youthful as well as raggedy as he opens the door.
The premise is evolving and it is very strong. These two are quite opposite in character as well as name and I guess their fathers were too. The dialogue between the pair could be improved by cutting slightly. No need for ‘strongly’ and ‘instantly’ and many other of the words ending in ‘y’ as they converse together. I would also be careful to let us know exactly what we need to know to keep us hooked and following the plot. Don’t overburden the reader with information.
The sequence with Colby is intriguing. These are two characters I could root for in their forthcoming adventure. As soon as Scarlet gets home the pace slows. Pattie, Mrs Black and Johnny the cat are all well drawn but there is too much detail here. It is as if we need to know every movement Scarlet makes and we surely don’t. You are excellent at setting a scene describing her outfit etc. The whole thing is very authentic and still would be if you cut some of it.Will read on.